When James Clarke Daniel was born on August 21 1840, to James and Margaret (nee Wyke), the family lived at 3 Cleveland Terrace, Bath, and there were already eight older children. The following year’s census gives James senior’s age as 35 and Margaret’s as 40 (adult ages were rounded to the nearest five years, so these wouldn’t have been their exact ages), and James’s occupation as draper. The children listed are Josiah (aged 14), Sarah (13), Emma (12), Louisa (11), Julia (9), Mary Ann (8), Emily (6), Elizabeth (3) and James (9 months). A later daughter, Margaret, was the couple’s last child. The family had originally lived in Abergavenny, in Monmouthshire, Wales - James senior's birthplace. Josiah, Christiana and Emma were born in Abergavenny, but by April 1830, when Louisa was born, the Daniels were living in Swansea, Glamorganshire, also in Wales. Julia, Mary Ann and Emily were also born in Swansea. James had a shop, Daniel’s Hat and Shoe Mart, there, but sold the business in 1839 due to ill health, and the family moved to Bath, where they lived at 3 Cleveland Terrace — one of six shops with dwellings above — on London Road.
James and Margaret, with all ten children, migrated to Australia in 1850. Their intended destination was Port Phillip (now Victoria) but they landed first in Adelaide and decided to stay there. James pastored various Baptist churches around Adelaide before the family moved to Morphett Vale in 1858, and James began ministry at Clarendon Baptist Church, travelling by horseback to services and appointments. Ill health forced him to resign from the ministry in 1871, and he died a few years later at the age of 71. Some of the family stayed in that area - four of the Daniel daughters are mentioned as devoted and valuable members of the Baptist church at Morphett Vale. James, Margaret and those four daughters are all buried at Morphett Vale.
James Clarke Daniel left Adelaide for Kyneton in 1857, when he was 17 years old. At first he worked for William Dobinson who ran a store there, and on July 1 1866 he and John Adair took over the business. Alex Dobinson took Mr Adair’s place as partner in 1873. During his ownership of the business James built a family home, “Macedon Villa”, on the corner of Simpson and Powlett Streets, Kyneton. In 1880 the partners sold the business and the Daniels moved to Glenhope, where James took up sheep farming on a property he called “Cleveland”, possibly after the family’s address in Bath.
James had married Mary Ann Dobinson, William’s daughter and Alex’s sister, in 1863, and by the time they left Kyneton there were seven children: William (born in 1864), Charles (1866), James (1868), Margaret (1871), Louisa (1874), and twins Samuel and Arthur (1878). Mary died in 1884 and James remarried a couple of years later. Sadly, Ellen Jane, his new wife, died in childbirth in 1887 and the child was stillborn. After several years at Glenhope, James sold the property, bought land in Barkers Road, Hawthorn, and built a substantial two-storey gentleman’s residence there. Again, he named his home “Cleveland.” The family moved there in November 1888. James was an early member of Auburn Baptist church and took an active role in the life of the congregation. Around this time he married Marion Buchanan. Their first two children, Archibald (1889) and Elsie (1892) were born at Hawthorn.
It’s worth noting that the Hawthorn house narrowly escaped demolition in the 1960s when a development company bought the property intending to demolish the house and build units. At the eleventh hour Hawthorn council placed new restrictions on the number of units that could be built on a given area of land, effectively halting the development. A family bought the house and did a fine job of restoring it. They sold it at auction in 1980, the winning bid being $202,000. There have been several owners since the Daniels, and all have retained the “Cleveland” name. The older children had left home by the time the family lived at Hawthorn. William, James’s first child, contracted an illness while farming sheep in northern Victoria. He was taken to Hawthorn and died at “Cleveland” in 1890. He was just 26, and his death left a widow, Agnes. After a few years James apparently missed country life, and bought a property at Lancefield. There was no house, so he had one built at a cost of ₤3,000. This building was designed by architect Frederic De Garis, of Emerald Hill (now South Melbourne). There are several De Garis-designed buildings still standing around Melbourne. The Lancefield estate was also named “Cleveland.” Another son, David, was born at Lancefield in 1894.
Alexander Buchanan, brother of James’s third wife, Marion, tells of the effect the 1890s depression had on James Clarke Daniel’s fortunes:
The boom in land had burst, and my brother-in-law Mr. Daniel had been caught with too much land not paid for. He had sold a large estate at Mia Mia [“Cleveland,” Glenhope] for a good price, came to the city, and built a house at Hawthorn. The land in Mia Mia was sold on terms giving Mr. Daniel an income of £16 per week. After a few years of suburban life he decided for a country estate, and bought one at Lancefield. There was no house on the estate so he built a new one costing £3,000 in those days. He bought on the prospect of all his former properties being fully paid, but as they were on terms, as was most usual in those days of the land boom, the banks began to get scared in the early nineties, and began calling up their loan money. Few people had cash, and what was available was mostly worthless paper. The banks took possession of the properties and Mr. Daniel lost the lot.
James must have been very resilient, because after losing his home and livelihood, he set out to rebuild his and his family’s lives. He took up land at Blackwarry, in Gippsland’s Strzelecki Ranges, and the family moved there in 1897. Sam and Arthur, by then 18, had the job of driving a herd of cows from Lancefield to Blackwarry. One story has them camping by a railway line, waking from a nightmare in the middle of the night thinking a train was coming through their tent. Apparently they tore a new door in the side of their tent in their panic to escape. The final Daniel children, Nellie and Walter (Bob), were born at Blackwarry around the turn of the century.
The dense rainforest, steep hills, boggy tracks and isolation of Blackwarry must have been quite a shock for the family after the more refined life of Kyneton, Hawthorn and Lancefield — especially when a bushfire destroyed their home the year after they arrived. The local community seems to have been close-knit and everyone worked together to rebuild homes and the hall — the one community facility. In the early years the community had to fend for themselves; it wasn’t until 1900 that a merchant began to deliver goods to the area. There was no railway, and the roads were rudimentary and at times impassable.
The Daniels took part enthusiastically in the life of the community. One example of this is the role daughter Margaret (Meg) played in persuading the education department to establish a school in 1902 — by writing letters until the department gave in, twenty six letters in all! In the meantime she voluntarily conducted classes in a tree stump. This sounds strange, but the huge eucalypts of the area provided more than just timber. Hollow stumps were also used as homes and stables.
The arrival of the Chilver family at around the same time as the Daniels led to romance. Sam Daniel married Clara Chilver, while Meg and Louisa Daniel married Clara’s brothers Jack and Will. Sam and Clara’s daughter, Clare, was my mother. Clara died a few months before my mother turned four years old. Jack and Meg took most of the responsibility for Clare’s upbringing and their children became more sister and brothers than cousins to her. Sam enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in 1916 and fought in France and the Middle East. He was injured, hospitalised in England twice, and returned to Australia in 1919.
James Clarke Daniel died in 1916, exactly one week before his 76th birthday. An obituary apparently written by a colleague from Auburn Baptist Church provides a fitting end to his story:
Passed away, suddenly, from an active life, at his home “Sea View”, Blackwarry, Victoria, this month, at the age of 76, Mr. J. C. Daniel, a good Baptist “non-resident.” Our brother was a fine type of Christian, true, robust, a hearty worker, encouraging, and inspiring.